Volunteers plant shrubs
You've probably noticed the clear-cutting of areas under power lines in your neighborhood in recent years. It is quite difficult not to notice these newly cut sections of power line rights-of-way.
Congress passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005, requiring power companies to clear-cut these areas beneath their power lines. This includes the area 10 feet outward on both sides, extending from the outer conductor of the power towers.
This federal mandate was passed as a result of the 2003 Northeast blackout, which affected 50 million people in eight states and Canada. The primary cause of the blackout, according to PPL's website, was tree contact with high transmission lines.
The results of cutting and extending the rights-of-way under power lines has, in many cases, left these cut areas open to uncontrolled erosion and new growth of invasive plants. The stream buffers – the swaths of vegetation extending out from a steam bank – are especially vulnerable to these cuttings.
The Bertsch-Hokendauqua-Catasauqua Watershed Association met with PPL several times and has received a $15,000 grant from the local power company to reestablish low bush vegetation adjacent to the stream banks. The initial plantings are planned for the banks of the Indian and Hokendauqua Creeks.
Members of BHCWA, along with help from members of the newly established Charter Arts Environmental Club of the Bethlehem Charter Arts School, met on a December morning for the first planting. The volunteers from the two groups planted spikes, or cuttings, of 200 silky dogwood, 200 banker's dwarf willow and 200 nine bark shrubs on the riparian buffers on opposite banks of the Indian Creek along Indian Trail Road in Lehigh Township. The total of 600 shrubs will help establish vegetation with root systems to aid in erosion and to provide shade to these riparian areas.
Streamside buffers play a number of very important roles in the balance of nature. They reduce flooding, decrease costs of stormwater management, serve as an aid in filtering pollutants, protect drinking water, improve in-stream pollution removal, reduce stream bank erosion, aid in keeping stream waters cool and enhance stream habitat for fish and other aquatic life.
"It's a good feeling that we are bringing back Mother Nature," volunteer Joshua Espada said.
"I'm working on a scholarship with community service for college. This feels nice helping to bring back the environment that was cut down especially near a stream," said Erin Adolt.
"It's a great way to spend a Sunday morning. For me it is like being in church," added Ian McGlynn.
Stephanie Horvath, club advisor and science teacher at BCAS said, "This is our first activity as a fledgling environmental club. It's nice to see students out at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning to help with this project. We have about 10 students interested in the club. Hopefully it takes off and more students get involved."
More riparian buffer zone plantings are planned by the BHCWA in partnership with other local organizations for the Indian Creek and Hokendauqua Creek clear-cut areas in spring 2013.